So another year is over and 2016 has been plucked, shiny and new (or bloody and screaming, depending on your outlook), from the beautiful vagina of 2015. Whether you had a traumatic 72 hour labour of a year or a wondrous water birth of a year, we come to the same end point together – a fresh, new year. Ready for us to try again.
Here is a question most feminists have been asked before: what is it that you want, exactly?
There is usually a follow-up question: do you want women to be superior to men? Men, in particular, seem terrified at the idea of having to endure what women have had to bear with for centuries – irony is a cruel thing. The feminist response to these questions currently seems to be: feminists want men and women to be equals. Gender equality: a reasonable and simple goal, and one that can hardly be contested publicly (and yet).
CW: Strong descriptions of violence, femicide, sexual violence
We all know who Jack the Ripper is. Well, no-one actually has a clue who he is, but we know the name ‘Jack the Ripper’. And we know who he killed – the ‘Jack the Ripper victims’, or ‘Ripper victims’. Hardly anyone bothers to learn their actual names or who they were as it’s easier to lump them under the header ‘victims’ and simply assign to them the same nickname given to their killer. Except, of course, we know their names.
Their names were Elizabeth, Catherine, Mary Ann, Annie and Mary Jane.
There are others who were possibly killed by the same man but these are the ones generally agreed upon by historians. While we never bother to remember their names, we know everything about their deaths. Ask someone about the Ripper killings, and you’ll hear the same details.
“Be patient“. “These things happen naturally“. “Look how far women have come over the last fifty years!” “We should not force these things; society will get there in due time“.
The idea that our societies will somehow spontaneously evolve towards equality seems to be fairly popular out there – this is true for gender issues, but also applies to other forms of institutional discrimination (race, class, sexual orientation, religion, disability…). According to that idea, we are “naturally” progressing on a linear path towards happy, equal societies. All we have to do is “be patient”.
CW: sexual violence, femicide, mutilation
Earlier this year, an application for the UK’s first women’s history museum was approved for a location on Cable Street in the east end of London. Cable Street and the surrounding area has a rich history of famous female residents and women-led action, and women’s history in the UK has long been pushed to the sidelines or forgotten entirely, so the news was met with excitement from local residents.
In July the museum opened. And what we got was a tacky, gruesome tribute to the memory of Jack the Ripper, famed misogynist and killer of women.
Knowing a British theatre-goer fears nothing more than a show promising audience participation and nudity (“Please let those be separate things”), Hannah Ballou opens ‘hoo:ha’ with a run-through of her impressive academic and professional credentials. You can almost hear the sound of bum muscles relaxing. Worries safely set aside, the audience is ready for entertainment, and Ballou serves up entertainment by the bucket load.
CW: Pregnancy and associated issues
My womb hasn’t done much in its (relatively) young life. It has shed its walls at random times and with great abandon, causing me to either consume sickening amounts of Dairy Milk or to collapse on the Tube, depending on how violent it’s feeling. Apart from this, it’s done basically nothing. However, the older I get the more and more often I’m feverishly asked about the future plans of my womb, as if it’s Jennifer Lawrence and an exciting new film project is on the horizon.
My womb is not Jennifer Lawrence.